Romaine Brooks, Self-Portrait, 1923. Oil on canvas.
With this self-portrait, Brooks envisioned her modernity as an artist and a person. The modulated shades of gray, stylized forms, and psychological gravity exemplify her deep commitment to aesthetic principles. The shaded, direct gaze conveys a commanding and confident presence, an attitude more typically associated with her male counterparts. The riding hat and coat and masculine tailoring recall conventions of aristocratic portraiture while also evoking a chic androgyny associated with the post—World War I “new woman.” Brooks’s fashion choices also enabled upper-class lesbians to identify and acknowledge one another. [Smithsonian American Art Museum]
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist.